A’ja Wilson was surprised by a familiar face before Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.
Dawn Staley, Wilson’s former South Carolina coach, showed up to embrace Wilson before she and the Las Vegas Aces attempted to complete a three-game sweep of the New York Liberty in the best-of-five championship series.
Staley, who also has coached Wilson for Team USA, has long been one of the star forward’s loudest supporters.
After it was revealed that Wilson finished third in the 2023 WNBA MVP voting, with one voter placing Wilson fourth on their ballot, Staley sent a message on X.
“To the fourth place voter, your hate is real and on display,” Staley wrote.
The admiration between coach and player goes both ways.
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“I’m always proud to say, I’m a product of Dawn Staley, and that’s the stamp. That’s a big stamp for me and I love it, and you can see it carries out throughout my college teammates,” Wilson said in September. “And it’s just a type of vibe that we give, the culture that we built there. It’s no surprise that we’re being very successful in this league.”
Wilson is averaging 24.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this postseason. The 27-year-old scored 26 points to go along with 15 rebounds in the Aces’ 104-76 win over the Liberty in Game 2.
Staley, meanwhile, will return to the sideline in Paris, France, on Nov. 6, when the Gamecocks will open their season against Notre Dame.